Friday, July 24, 2009

The LIAR Cover Thing

Buzzing 'bout the blogosphere: the cover girl for Liar by Justine Larbalestier. The protagonist is an unreliable narrator if there ever was any, but I think anyone who reads the book can conclude she was being serious about not being white, having short cropped hair, and being boyish in many aspects.

So why is the cover this?

Here's a handy PW article and Justine's (very articulate) blog post on it.

I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. But I thought I'd add this in, to address the people I've seen saying Justine should've fought harder against this cover art.

So, at BEA, I had the pleasure of getting my ARC signed by her. We chatted a bit, Lenore, Alea, Justine, and I (as well as Anna, another Aussie and a Bloomsbury publicist). Justine was lovely. Anna was lovely. I got a huge kick out of hearing them speak in their lovelylovelylovely accent.

We left.

A while later, Lenore and I ran into Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier at the Bloomsbury booth. It was after BEA had closed for the day and we were just roaming. No other fans were nearby, so we got to speak to them a bit more. I asked Justine for some more of her business cards with both the Aussie and the American cover of Liar and casually asked what she thought of the cover.

Very frankly, she said, "I think it's a beautiful cover and that Bloomsbury did a wonderful job of making it eye-catching. But my protagonist isn't white, so this isn't reflective of the book I wrote. This is why I like the Australian cover more. Nevertheless, they decided to go with this cover in the US."

She said something about another version that I can't recall right now, but yeah, that portion is what really matters. It's what she's always been saying. Authors don't usually have a say in what their cover will end up being. Even when they're the writer of a lead title, like Justine is. So please stop treating her like she's in the wrong in this, all the naysayers.

It's a good book, at any rate. I don't believe a boycott is necessary because it'll ultimately hurt Justine, someone who's active in writing multi-cultural. But if you're upset with this cover, I do urge you write to Bloomsbury about it.

(Oh! And yes! I'm back.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I beseech your help.

With what I should read next. I haven't read anything in two weeks. Help help help! Just give me suggestions, don't worry about whether I have 'em or not. This can also help me in my Birthday Shopping List. :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heya, my loves

So, it's been, what, four days since my birthday and at least three pounds added to the overall baggage?


Anyhow, for the next week I'll be cramming endless amounts of information for my eight-subject course load because Tuesday next week = huge-ass exam. AND THEN I GET JULY OFF, HUZZAH.

Anyway, I may or may not update. You'll know either way. Don't forget about me, though!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Human Hymen Rights

Via I Heart Daily: A new incentive to put a cap on the elevated teen pregnancy rates in Sierra Leone dictates that a girl who can prove she's a virgin can be offered a chance to gain a university scholarship.

I had a whole post planned out for this but I think it can best be summarized by: *shudder*


Thursday, June 18, 2009

BEST Birthday Ever

No one cares but I just want to remember this day, so...

The day's not over yet but I'm about to go under to study chemistry for my finals tomorrow (true story), so I thought I'd post this today:

This day's been absolutely magical!

In the morning we overslept so I basically had no breakfast and rushed to the car for my mom to drive me to school (got there with fifteen seconds to spare). In the car she pulls out this small package and says, "Open it!"

Mind you, I went to NYC for BEA two weeks ago and it was understood that aside from paying half of the trip, my parents' half was my birthday gift. So far all the birthday money I've gotten from relatives has gone straight to my dad's wallet. I'm happy this way because what parents allow their kids to miss a week of school, three exams, and get on international flights to the most expensive cities in the world?

I thought so.

But anyway, I opened it up and a crystal frog was inside. Crystal! Frog! (I'm a frog maniac, by the way. Stuffed/figurine ones in any case. It's gotten better as I've grown older, but it's still there.)

I squealed.

Got to school and walked in my maths class and one friend handed me a hilarious note saying happy birthday and no one said anything else. But they weren't conspicuous about it: they seemed a bit ticked off with me, and even though my bullshit detector's fine tuned 99% of the time, they had me believing they'd forgotten.

I was heartbroken because, well. I don't need gifts or any show-offy displays of birthday remembrance, but a HUG from my FRIENDS?

And then in the second class with this brilliant yet utterly unfit to teach physics teacher, they began singing happy birthday until the dude begged them to stop. I was so surprised by that I thought it was someone else's birthday. -.-

THEN. Over the second break, a bunch of people came up to me and hugged me and said, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" and it was great.

THEN. On the third break, which is the 20-minute one we get, they handed me two bouquets of origami flowers. (Lots of Japanese people 'round these parts. 80% of my friends are Japanese descendants, I'd wager.) It was so beautiful. I was just there admiring them and hugging my friends when they said, "There are messages inside the flowers."

I lost it. We sat around in a huge circle and I read them all and they were all so wonderful. You have no idea. Inside jokes galore, lots of laugh, lots of, "Never stop being strange or crazy!" sentiments (ha! I am quite strange in real life. More so than on the blog).

They helped me fold them all back up and we went to class.

My mom picked me up from school and took me to Subway (I LOVE SUBWAY). Some recent family stuff has made it so that I almost never have alone time with my mom anymore so it was this huge deal. She bought us these great juices and took me to two cappuccinno places (one of them so overpriced they'd put Starbucks to shame, but damn, good coffee).

And she got me a chocolate rose.

Here I am, about to do chemistry. PARTY TOMORROW, woo!

My weekend's all hectic so you may not see a lot of me. But thanks for all the birthday wishes from everyone who's sent them. And even though my friends and family don't know about this blog, and even though I've all but cried on them that's how excited I am, a huge shout out to them.


P.S. My grandmother just shoved some money to me. I can't get into this a lot, but right before the NYC trip there was an emergency and my mom was almost calling it off when my grandmother told her to JUST GO ALREADY. So not only has she given me the best gift ever with that, she's now insisting I take her money. Naturally, I refused.

She just stuck it in my underwear drawer instead.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Abercrombie & Fitch Me

Starting in 8th grade when I began wearing a lot more black than I had previously, people began to have a problem with me on a superficial level. I was the only member of the 7th grade volleyball team not to make the team again in 8th grade and my replacement was this absolutely horrible player. My teachers for the first time ever began giving me the evil eye when they saw me walk into their advanced classes. I retained many of my friends in all cliques I’d made previously but it was harder now to approach the preps (you know the type) because they’d get into this monologue about how I was “so emo.”

I went through a couple of phases in response to these accusations in my middle school years. First, I harbored a growing resentment toward the preps. How dare they judge me based on a color--not even a fashion as I was never “emo”--and think they had the right to reduce me to their idea of what I was worth? I banded with other similarly styled people and we would basically face off the preps anytime they gave us trouble. We even gave them trouble ourselves, teasing them for the price tags on their clothes. Turns out that when they’re not in big numbers, they’re just like us--vulnerable as hell. And I was no better than them.

Then, I moved away from all of that and my new school in another country had a uniform. Aside from expensive shoes and accessories, you couldn’t really establish clashing personalities with clothes alone, so that problem was done with. With this change a new mentality dawned to me:

Frankly, I couldn’t care less what your style is, how much you spend on your clothes, where you buy your clothes, or any such thing. That’s your business.

And I still subscribe to that school of thought. That said, a new mentality I’ve recently come to cultivate is that you should be mindful of the value of the companies you buy your clothes from. Not to say it gives you a right to tear other people down because what the company they’re wearing doesn’t agree morally with you. It’s more on a personal level: What messages are you supporting?

For instance, this recent piece about Abercrombie & Fitch: Banning a girl with a prosthetic arm to the stockroom because she doesn’t fit their corporate Looks Ideal. (This on top of all other negative press they’ve gotten for things that sicken me.) Now, I personally can’t tell an A&F outfit from an, say, AE one. Even if I could, it doesn’t sit well with the person I am today to make assumptions about you based on that alone. So again, this isn’t for show, it’s on a personal level.

Do you like the idea of your money being used to keep a company perpetuating these ideas alive? Do you want that?

Me? I sure as hell don’t, and even if I had the money to buy things at A&F, I’d still stay far, far away. If I was interested in that look I would find somewhere to get it.

Pub Story: Sarah Rees Brennan

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Sarah: Sarah Rees Brennan was born and raised in Ireland by the sea, where her teachers valiantly tried to make her fluent in Irish (she wants you to know it's not called Gaelic) but she chose to read books under her desk in class instead.

After college she lived briefly in New York and somehow survived in spite of her habit of hitching lifts in fire engines. She began working on The Demon’s Lexicon while doing a Creative Writing MA and library work in England. Since then she has returned to Ireland to write and use as a home base for future adventures. Her Irish is still woeful, but she feels the books under the desk were worth it. Visit her at

The Story

When I got my book deal, I pretty much told the world. My mother, obviously. My second cousins in Australia. The lady I was buying gum from at the newsagent's. (She gave me a kind of strange look...) And the people who didn't know me asked how old I was, and when I said 23, they said 'you're awfully young!' The people who did know me said 'At last!'

I started writing when I was five years old, and scribbled a story and spun a bunch of lies about how it was A Masterpiece that I had been slaving on for years to my grandfather, who was a huge muscular guy who was ex-army, worked down at the docks, hated books and loved sports. Because he loved his strange little bespectacled granddaughter as well, he played along. I needed no more encouragement - when I was seven, I finished my first book, which was about ponies and ninjas. They were my primary interests at the time, and I still think both are pretty cool now.

I never stopped writing books. Growing up, it was the great constant of my life: when I was nine and playing with dolls, when I was sixteen and dressing like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wrote books that started out Regency comedy of manners like Jane Austen, got bored half-way through and murdered someone spectacularly over tea and scones. I wrote a Romeo and Juliet-style love story where the villain and the comic relief wandered off from the tragic romance, had wild adventures and made out a lot. I wrote the love story of a boy and a ghoul, which was somewhat spoiled by the ghoul's irresistible impulses to eat the boy's face right off.

When I was sixteen, I got a literary agent and was offered a book deal: it fell through, partly because I realised the publisher wanted the gimmick of a sixteen year old writer more than they actually liked my book. In retrospect, I thank goodness for that: the book was pretty awful! But at the time, and when my literary agent retired when I was eighteen, it was pretty crushing. I managed to have an excellent time in college anyway, and wrote a four-book high fantasy epic in which the beautiful golden-haired princess who the hero fell for at first sight was secretly a power-mad dominatrix. Writing was just something I always did: I was unhappy and sometimes felt ill when I didn't do it. I finished more than twenty books and started about a thousand, and every time I started a new book, I thought to myself, maybe this is it. Maybe this is the one.

I moved from Ireland to New York for a publishing internship right after college, which was one of the scariest and the most fun things I've ever done, and in between catching lifts with fire engines and making snow angels in Central Park, I started reading a lot of agents' blogs. I even picked a favourite agent's blog: Kristin Nelson's at I was writing too, of course: co-writing with a friend, which fell through with a crash. Then I had to leave New York because, well, people get sensitive if you try outstaying your visa's welcome...

Back in Ireland, preparing for another move near to London, I hadn't written anything in a few months. Then I started thinking, among other things, about that tall dark mysterious stranger who often appears in books. You know the one. Few words. Knows everything about whatever supernatural or criminal (or supernatural AND criminal) thing that's going on. Also supernaturally and criminally good-looking. And I began to write a book from inside that guy's head, worrying about fighting demons and paying the electricity bill, fixing the sink and practising the sword in a tiny back garden in London. And just like always when I started, I thought, maybe...

I wrote while a little lonely and trying to make new friends in London. I wrote when I was making tinfoil fairy wings and trying to persuade the library where I worked to let me wear them. I wrote an email to Kristin Nelson, my dream agent, in a fit of midnight madness and daring, and I was amazed when she took me on. I was even more amazed when four publishers offered for the book.

Twenty books. Twenty years, and worth every second.

No more maybes. This was the one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

And the CATCHING FIRE winner is...


For some reason, after we passed the 200th comment, the entries didn't show up anymore. Thus, I picked the winner by drawing a number at an online Randomizer and counting out which person it was from the emails I receive with each comment received. So don't worry, even if you didn't see your comment, it was counted. This particular winner was in the 200s, so, ya know, that tells you something right there.

Thanks for playing and stay tuned!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BEA Recap: To Khy, from David Levithan

The sound's not great...ugh. Sorry, Khy, but the room was BUSTLING and I tried my best!


I, Steph from, LOVE Megan McCafferty.
Khy over at LOVES David Levithan.

Awhile ago, Khy went to a Megan McCafferty signing and got Megan on video saying hi to me.

A few weeks back I was in NYC for BEA and, since I was in town, went to an author signing put together by some fellow bloggers, and David Levithan was present.

What could I do BUT make Khy a video?


It's Not You, It's Me by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann

Henry breaks up with Zoë. Zoë decides that she won’t have it because it was her relationship, too, and it is clearly Her Whole Life, and she should have some say in its disintegration. So she decides the best way to woo him back is by climbing up a tree right outside his window and slipping a poem she wrote about him in, giving him a collage she made of their Happier Times in plain sight at school, befriending his new love interest so as to further stalk every aspect of his life, and pestering him until you lose all your sense of civilization and wish she were real so you could whack her upside the head with a copy of Twilight.

But then you realize that even if by some miracle characters could come alive, she wouldn’t have enough meat on her to stand up and take the blow because she’s so freaking one-bordering-on-two dimensional. As is every last miserable character in this mess of a novel.

Zoë is a more psychotic Bella, down to the worshipping the ground Henry walks on and the excessively clumsy streak that acts as a catalyst way more times than it ever should, which is precisely zero in any situation.

Her best friends, Shannon and Julia, are either indulging her crap by giving her more ideas out of Stalker Today or acting like the Voices of Reason, which is fancy coming from people who 50% of the time are no better than she is. The chip on Zoë’s shoulder had more personality than the sum of all their parts, not surprisingly.

And the love interests were clearly on a leave of absence because I cannot, for the life of me, remember anything striking about them.

Tying everything up is a heavy-handed message that you shouldn’t use people and you shouldn’t lose your sense of self in a relationship because that’s a Big Turn Off and the guy will lose interest. But it fails on so many levels, none the least in the realistic aspect, where you gotta wonder if something this ridiculous is meant to be funny and if so, whom exactly is the joke on? The only redemptive quality is that the writing flows, but even so, what can you do with that when everything else flakes out on you?

So, really, this is the tale of what a more psychotic Bella would do if Edward had stuck around after the breakup in New Moon. And for just $16 you can be a proud owner.

Any takers?

1 star if I did that kind of rating system. Not sure what grade--D or F? Eh, who cares, bottom line is: no recommendation.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Woo. Long review. But, first blog review for this book! (That's actually the reason you're seeing this so early. Give it a couple of months and EVERYONE will be reviewing it.)

There’s something almost seductive about the title, isn’t there? It kind of dares you to pick the book up.

Anyway. It all begins when Coach--he who teaches biology--forces Nora, a straight-A student, to switch lab partners and she suddenly finds herself opposite of Patch, a mysterious-seeming senior. At the same time, things are going terribly awry. Nora’s sure she’s being followed. Her room’s ransacked. And everywhere she turns, Patch is there, lips tugged in a smile, the face of confidence.

And he seems to know everything about her. At once she doesn’t know if she should succumb to his charms and run into his arms, or listen to her gut and run away from him. Whatever he wants, he’s not telling her. To escape his lure, Nora turns to the other boy vying for her attention, Elliot. But he’s not what he seems either, and the connection between him and Patch runs deeper and deadlier than she could know.

Basically? Nora’s stuck in the middle of a sinister game of revenge. Both Patch and Elliot seem to want something from her, and in a place where sides shift suddenly and unearthing hidden motives gives way to more secrets, Nora’s got some tough soul-searching ahead of her to figure out whom to trust--and not much time to get there.

The first chapter opens in biology class, with a Barbie doll and her Ken counterpart stripped naked and covered with leaves in strategic places. They’re about to start on the reproduction unit. Immature comments are shouted out and upfront and center we meet three integral characters: Nora, Vee (the BFF), and Patch. And so it begins, this journey with them, where at equal parts it feels like we’ve known them our whole lives (they’re well-written) and, especially where Patch is concerned, they keep us at the edge of our seats (again, they’re well written). And they shine.

Oh, but does Patch shine. Here’s your unabashedly cocky (anti?)hero, an absolute ass, and possibly all the more attractive for it. Not one thing that comes out of his mouth is predictable, except maybe predictably swaggering, and it’s that quality and his unwillingness to share part of his past that make him magnetic. It’s hard to say this without giving spoilers, but we see many, many sides of him, most of which are not goody-goody, which serve to make him one of the most complex and interesting characters in the book.

And the plot? What can I say about the plot so as to not give anything away? Well, it’s clever and hides surprises in the folds of its intricacies. Especially when you’ve got the pacing this book does, which makes five pages go by in no time, ten stretch into twenty, and fifty come and go in a snap. There’s actually even a scene at the very, very end where the plot turns in on itself and ties things up in a way I would usually hate but couldn’t here because I thought it was bright and fitting with the story.

Which doesn’t go to say this book is perfect. First up is a classic case of a useless character--in this case a bitchy cheerleader named Marcie--who dropped off the face of the earth and resulted in an unresolved plot thread. Second: For a proclaimed disciplined student, Nora lacked a certain amount of drive. Heroines without it are no-no to me. But, you know, she’s under constant threat. So we may see some redemptive ambition in the sequel. Here’s to hoping. Further, there’s a leap in the progression of the Nora/Patch dynamics that made things feel a bit too sudden and mistimed. (I’ll have more to say after it’s released.) And finally, I hate to be the one to compare yet another book to Twilight, but there were a couple of scenes that brought it to mind. Nothing formulaic or that made Hush, Hush unoriginal, and I’m not sure if the existence of said scenes is necessarily negative, but…I could do without the surges of déjà vu, y’know?

That said, it’s really hard to hold all of that against the book, though, when I recognize that, save for my minor complaints, this is exactly the type of thing I like to and want to read: dark and both relevant and whimsical, with memorable characters, great quotability, and abundant humor. Hush, Hush doesn’t stop at exciting--it was an experience so complete and enjoyable, it tides you over. It’s not hard to picture fandoms being built around it, copious fanfic taking up terabytes of space, or a movie being made. There’s just that special quality that makes it compulsive and turns willing readers loyal. A shoo-in for the best of 2009, obviously. A shoo-in for a lot more, actually, but I’ll stop here and observe how things will unfold.

I read somewhere that Ms Fitzpatrick worked on this book for five years and has over two thousand pages of deleted scenes to show for it. That’s a lot of dedication. And it worked: this is good. You gotta give it to her--she earned the buzz she’s been getting, which I’m sure is just the tip of the iceberg for what comes down the line. So, tell me, Becca, how does it feel?

Simon & Schuster BFYR | 400 pages | October 13th, 2009 (you'll get a reminder closer to pub date) | Becca's website | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Friday, June 12, 2009

How I babysit

Thought I'd illustrate just how awesome my niece is. We both sit when I babysit.

We can last a pretty good while like that if she's in a good mood. (Which she wasn't for the 48HBC.) We give a whole new meaning to the word 'multitasking' if I do say so myself.


There may be something in it for anyone who can guess which book I'm reading. Hint: It'll only be released in late fall. And everyone is buzzing about it. Lenore, shush.

Damn, L has some good interviews.

Lenore's always had a knack for interviewing and, like such, I always enjoy reading the ones she posts on her blog even if I've never heard of the author before. Her latest is great--not only because of the topic (go see for yourself), but because the author, Paul Harris, gave what just might be the best answer to the ask-yourself-a-question bit:

Q: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked but never have been?
A: I am going to use this excellent question to harp on about a key pet peeve of mine that I am always amazed never gets any political attention in America. So the question is: What simple thing would most improve America for Americans? My answer is: give everyone a minimum of four weeks vacation a year. Ideally, five. In Europe we are generous with our vacations. In America many people only get two. I find this astonishing. Sometimes newspaper columnists here in the US even laugh at the French/Germans/Italians for their long summer vacations and their smaller Gross National Products. Well, the joke is on them.

And it goes on to enumerate and eloquently justify his point. But I'm obviously not going to quote the whole thing on here. Move on over to L's for a bit.

Hey, book bloggers?

So, I reviewed Tempo Change by Barbara yesterday, right? I decided to put this quote from the book in a separate post because I thought it might just inspire some interesting discussion, and it'd be best not to let said discussion and review commentary mingle.

Here goes:

Then, before my dad made his entrance onto the stage, Meg came out and made a big deal about him. She announced half his credits and called him the Vanguard of Poetic Punk, or something equally disturbing, and it suddenly occurred to me that I used to say things like that. Back when I was a critic. Back when I was somebody who just talked about other people's works in a sassy way, trying to invent new phrases and make it all sound so important. That was before I knew what it was like to try to put the whole thing together and actually perform for people and get something across to them. (Page 206)

Thoughts? From anyone, authors and book bloggers alike.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

400 Follower Contest: Fire

In honor of those four hundred (!!!) individuals, I'll do a giveaway open to those who are my followers. I know who the 400th follower was, and anyone who comes after won't be eligible for this contest, I'm afraid. (I have mentioned time and again that I would have contests exclusively for followers of mine.) But you will be for the next benchmark number, whichever one that is, so it's not all bad. :)

Anyway, I'm giving away an ARC of Fire by Kristin Cashore, the second book in the Graceling world, out in October.

Fire, Graceling's prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing...

Just leave a comment.
You must have been a follower before kim pickett, the 400th, became one.
+1 for linking here.
Leave as many
comments as you have entries.
INTERNATIONAL. Deadline: June 26th, 2009.

One small stipulation--I'll only be in the US in July, and I can only mail it out then. (Postage is cheaper there.) The contest will be over in two weeks, and from there it's only a one week wait time till it's in the mail, so it's not too bad.

Tempo Change by Barbara Hall

I know a LOT of book bloggers have this one but there are barely any reviews, so listen up, y’all!

You take one look at it and think it’ll be your typical whiny book. You read the back copy--a famous, absent father? An all-girl band to get his attention? WHINY. Pass.

God, I hate this cover. When I first looked at it, it was like, “Couldn’t they afford to ink the whole thing?” The girl’s pretty and all but…meh. I mean, doesn’t it look a bit awkward? A tweenish? And frivolous? (Am I crazy?) I wasn’t planning on reading it.

Evidently, I did, or else we wouldn’t be here. The whole nine yards:

Amee and I have this thing where we’ll randomly ask the other to pick each other’s next book to read. In this case, I couldn’t make up my mind and deferred to Amee’s expertise in picking whatever from my pile. After a moment of deliberation, she picked Tempo Change, either because she was genuinely interested or because she knew it’d result in a snarky review if I hated it. Yeah. I don’t secretly (or not so secretly, I guess) call her Ambiguous Amee for no reason. ;)

I told her, “If I hate it, it’s your fault.” She laughed as she often does at my antics and sent me off to read.

A decade ago, sophomore music guru Blanche’s father walked out on them to go “find himself.” See, he’s an artiste, a renowned musician who went into obscurity because he’s so complicated. (That is indeed sarcasm you see. Blanche doesn’t quite go there, but I’m cruel and uninvolved and I say he’s scum.) Blanche tries not to grudge him this and is level-headed about his fame, but she idolizes him anyway and craves contact with him aside from his sporadic emails. Even though she fights off the “artist” label like the curse she thinks it is, insisting instead on being a “musical critic”, Blanche inadvertently finds herself in a band that she secretly hopes will bring him to her.

(The premise kind of reminded me of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert. They’re very different though.)

What I liked here is that, right before my eyes, Tempo Change transformed from an accumulation musical notes and references, to an exploration of ambition, talent, expectations, and reality. Blanche longs to understand the intricacies of having a gift and having dreams and everything that comes in between.

Because look at her examples: a mother she views as talentless with perceived frugal ambition settling for a quiet life, and a father with more talent than he needed who ended up abandoning her and isolating himself. It’s a struggle for her to understand the middle-ground, especially when she’s blinded by her desire of a father and her sharp criticism of the parent she does have. (That age-old thing of it being easier to get mad at the ones you love because you know they’'ll keep loving you back. Always wanting what you can’t have.)

It’s more of a coming-of-age novel than anything else, and I swear, as riddled as it was with Truths, what makes Tempo Change stand out is its own reflections of those Truths. The biggest example I can think of this is when Blanche says, “Because I didn’t realize that when your prayers get answered, it doesn’t look the way you expect it to. It doesn’t look like happiness, necessarily. It just looks like getting what you asked for.” Pretty cool, huh?

Final, conclusive reaction: I like this. I tweeted about this. I’m surprised by how much I like this.

Delacorte | 256 pages | June 9th, 2009 | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MANY Contest Winners!

For Elizabeth Scott contest:

Brittany (I'm guessing a LOT of people are jealous!)

For Lisa Schroeder contest:

Shelburns - I Heart You, You Haunt Me
robin_titan - Far From You

For the Elizabeth and Lisa contests, winners please email me at reviewerx AT with 'ELIZABETH WINNER' or 'LISA WINNER' on the subject bar and send me your addresses. You have until June 15th!

For the epic The Chosen One contest:

** IF YOU DID NOT GET MY EMAIL AND SEE YOUR NAME BELOW, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT thechosenone AT reviewerx DOT com. If you did get my email, follow the instructions there! **

You have until June 15th to get me your addresses!

Instant winners!

If you think you're an instant winner and don't see your name on this list, EMAIL ME (thechosenone AT reviewerx DOT com with ** Am I an IW? ** on the subject.

Other winners!
SunShine (Rachel)
Amber (Sammyjones)
Jenn (Liddypool)
Amelia (bookjunkiereviews)
a flight of minds
Erica (the book cellar)

Cinnamon (A Journey of Books)
Ashley (books obsession)
Gaby (startingfresh)
A.S. King
Laina Has Too Much Spare Time
Kathleen Elizabeth

Annie (Anne Taylor)
I Heart Monster
Max Brown
Hillary (booklovergal12)
Lindsey (Kindred Spirit)
Kaitlyn (WritingAboutRead)

Jessica (Read Sleep Dance Read)
Alyssa (Shady Glade)
Marie Burton
Carrie K.
Michele P.

Contest: Eyes Like Stars

You saw Lisa Mantchev's Pub Story yesterday. Today, you get a chance to win her debut novel, Eyes Like Stars, only out in July.

Enter Stage Right

All her world's a stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She is not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every place ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Lisa Mantchev has written a debut novel that is dramatic, romantic, and witty, with an irresistible and irreverent cast of characters who are sure to enchant the audience.

Open Curtain

One entry per person. +1 for linking to this contest. + 1 for linking to the Pub Story. Leave as many comments as you have entries, please. US only. Please leave your email address on your comment entry(-ies).

Contest over. Winner to be announced.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Hasn't been answered in a week. The fact I'm up at 3:42am telling you this should be some sort of an indicator as to how things have been. I'll get caught up tomorrow, hopefully. Sorry to everyone expecting a timely response--I'm really quite terrible at email and lately it hasn't gotten any better. >.< Anyway, scroll down for the pub story.

Pub Story: Lisa Mantchev

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

Pretty, pretty cover...

About Lisa: Lisa Mantchev grew up in the small Northern California town of Ukiah. She can pinpoint her first forays into fiction to the short stories she thumped out on an ancient typewriter. Playwriting came a few years later with an adaptation of Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird for May Day Festival in the fourth grade. She makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with her husband Angel, her daughter Amélie and four hairy miscreant dogs. When not scribbling, she can be found on the beach, up a tree, making jam or repairing things with her trusty glue gun. Eyes Like Stars is her first novel. Find out more at

The Story

When I have anxiety dreams, I'm usually in some version of Christopher Durang's An Actor's Nightmare: being shoved onstage in a costume that doesn't fit (when there's a costume at all!) and realizing I don't know my lines.

Publishing a book is a little bit like standing in a spotlight, waiting to see if the performance will receive applause or a barrage of rotten fruit. But I feel lucky to be standing here at all, even if I do get pelted with oranges.

No one wants to read a book about the theater.

It's too niche.

Almost as bad as a book about the opera.

I have no idea how we would market this.

These responses are not verbatim, but variations on a theme that we heard when Eyes Like Stars was out on submission. It had taken me nine months to write the novel, sign with my agent, and get it on the editors' desks, and only about nine days to feel that all hope was lost, that my cupcake-riddled, fairy-glittery story wasn't ever going to find a home.

And under all the despair and hair pulling, I wondered if they weren't right. Who would want to read a fantasy set in a theater?

People who like reading and acting and Phantom of the Opera... and High School Musical--that's doing pretty well!--and unconventional fantasy? Please? Maybe?

I hadn't thought about it during the writing process, because that's the time for putting your fingers on the keys and your nose to the screen, but afterward I had plenty of time to think over things like target audience and appropriate age range and marketability.

Before I had the chance to go completely insane, the offer came in from Feiwel & Friends. In keeping with the power of nine, it took nine months before the contract was signed and the news went public. By the time the books hits the shelves, it will have been three years from the time I put the first word on the screen. The novel went through several major revisions--my editor (the lovely and incomparable Rebecca Davis) helped me take a shiny idea and turn it into a novel that worked

But it was, and always will be, a book about the theater.

And I see the excitement over the new Glee TV series, I am hearing the first reactions of the YA bloggers and reviewers who also happen to be theater-lovers, costumers, drama enthusiasts... and I know that it was not too niche, that people DO want to read about theater, that authors shouldn't worry that their book is too different than what's already out there because it may just be the book that readers are waiting to crack open.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

48-Hour Book Challenge: Finish Line

I am officially done with 48HBC! It was great fun and I recommend you do it next year if you didn't do it this year--or hey, that you do it again next year, as I hope I'll get the chance to.

Anyway, as I was babysitting yesterday (I've mentioned this way too many times, huh?), I didn't finish as many books as I wanted to in that time. I'd be reading extra-slow to make space for my brain to coordinate several activities: entertain my niece (dancing...or something similar to it), rock her stroller, hold her (and somehow hold the book, too), and occasionally have to get up to do some chores.

So I read 5 books.

Catching Fire
(still some pages to go, actually)
The Formal
The Demon's Lexicon
and Drive Me Crazy

My total amount of pages would be something like...less than 1500. And I read for 21 hours and 24 minutes.

WAIT I HAD NO IDEA THE SOCIAL NETWORKING HOURS COUNTED. I have no idea how much time I actually spent networking socially, but just my blog updates were at least half an hour hour or so Twittering? That's like 23 hours then.


I don't want to talk about it.

On the bright side, I did surpass my 20-hour goal. So there's that. Next year my goal will be 25 hours and 8 books.

But regardless, this was an awesome community effort to flip as many pages as possible for as many hours as possible and to be in such great company while doing it--and reading everyone's updates along the way--is what I think makes this challenge such a success. Seriously, try to join in next time one of these is done.

Cheers to MotherReader for putting this together.

Late-night gems

We won't even talk about how many hours I'm at for the 48-hour book challenge because it's so pitiful, I'm going to cry myself to sleep. Actually, I'll cry myself to sleep tomorrow. Today I get to read myself to sleep.

In an attempt to keep things positive, here are some gems you only get--at a discount with bulk orders--at the X Headquarters:

My reading time and productivity was severely impaired with irregular babysitting hours with my 4-month-old niece, who is prone to wailing like her life depends on it. It also doesn't help that she has some sort of ear infection or ache or something, and is coming down with a cold. (It's nearing winter here in the southern hemisphere.) So anyway, I would constantly have to set my book down and dance to Lil Jon's "Get Low" for her to shut up. And you thought Emma from Friends and her "Baby Got Back" fetish was bad.

The second hilarity comes in the form of my mother having this habit of coming into my room every night before she retires to her own chambers (it's a small master bedroom, but I like calling it 'chambers'. hee!) and doing the cross in Greek. It's this thing that came with her Greek Orthodox upbringing. She came to do that today but since my lower bed was pulled out for my nephew to sleep in, she couldn't get to my head and torso so she did it to my closest body part, which just happened to be my butt.

Why yes, my mom blessed my butt to sleep.

Night, y'all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

48HBC Update #2

More info on the 48 hour book challenge.

Okay, I have...20 hours and 19 minutes to go until I hit my 48 hour deadline, and I have finished 11 hours and 30-something minutes. Do we have to post exact timetables of the reading we've done? Cos I haven't a clue. I'm only counting the hours, to be honest.

Books I've read:
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (review)
The Formal by Kate Harmon (review)

Books I've Started:
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (page 170)

Books I'm Hoping to Finish in the next 9.5 hours:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Official tally:
Books read: 2.5
Hours read: 11 hours and 30 minutes
Things to take into account: A screaming niece who needs rocking from someone who's not the best multitasker ever while reading.

The Formal by Kate Harmon (48HBC)

The Formal is the third book in the Sorority 101 series by Kate Harmon. (Not sure if this too is written by Marley Gibson. I know for a fact the first two are, but who can tell?) I've been trying to find this for a while now because I enjoyed the first two well enough. I like reading FUN!, whimsical type books every once in a while, which is why I chose this for my third 48 Hour Book Challenge book.

Jenna and Tiger are having trouble moving forward with their relationship. When it's unveiled Tiger has had previous experience in that department--I'm sure you know which one I'm talking about--Jenna can't get it out of her head. What if the other girl is better than her? What if he's still in love with her?

Roni and Lance hit a rough patch when Roni becomes too involved in ZZT's Formal, since all the planning's been dumped on her by an older and stressed-out-by-the-LSATs sorority sister. He can't understand how important being part of a family like ZZT is important to Roni ("Shouldn't you be channeling all this energy into your schoolwork and our relationship?"), which obviously rubs Roni the wrong way.

Lora-Leigh and DeShawn are casual as ever, but they're definitely making progress in the relationship territory. Until DeShawn decides to go to the NFL drafts and whatever they have - however special - doesn't have good survival odds. She gets into FIT but struggles with the decision of going or not when the weight of what she's leaving behind--her sorority, her best friends, and the entire LU life.

This one's more focused on the romantic relationship of the girls than the sorority itself, as was with the previous two books (and what you'd expect with the series title like it is). You don't necessarily need to read the previous ones to understand this, because there's some rehashing here and there. Truthfully, I don't remember a whole lot about them so I can't say if the references to events in the predecessors gets overbearing or not, but it was a nice crutch to go on.

There's not a lot to be said about this third installment. I paid $4 for it at The Strand and spent 3ish hours reading it and it kept me entertained while I babysat my crying-her-lungs-out niece. Everything's a little too obvious (not to mistaken with predictable. It's that too, but obvious is more how I'd describe it) and the characters are getting a little too blushy-blush for my tastes, but hey. More than anything, I'm getting tired of the super happily-ever-afters. After 250 pages of angst and commotion in the problematic relationships, you would think a simple gesture wouldn't fix everything.

What I mean is, it's readable and pretty fun if you're into this sort of thing (which I am), but not the most impressive addition to this already not-exactly-stellar series. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone whose tastes don't correlate exactly with mine or anyone who's looking for something different. The first book was decidedly better, though.

I told myself I'd only spend 10 minutes writing this so I could get back to reading, and I've gone two minutes over, so I'm signing off. ;)

48HBC Update #1

Books I've finished:

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (4 hours)

Books I've started:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (1.5 hours-so far!)
+1 hour since posting this! So far.
+1.5 more hours since last update.

Total so far: 8 hours. 1.5 to go until I hit the 24hr mark!

Books on my pile:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Ash by Malinda Lo
Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill
The Formal by Kate Harmon

Totally gave up hope of finishing all of 'em due to the fact I crashed last night at 10:30 and woke up at 8 today, after only having read 5 hours. 5 hours until I pass the 24 hour mark. But I still have plans of making it to the 20+ hour group!

Friday, June 5, 2009

48-Hour Book Challenge: Starting Line

I'm scheduling this back to be posted at 2:30pm my time because that is officially when I began my reading marathon and I just decided to participate in this, even though I'm kinda breaking a rule by not having read for five hours before coming online. Oh well, at least that's three hours I've read already!

Join us! You still have time. Check rules here and link to your Starting Line post here.

BEA Recap: Horror Stories

You know those horror stories agents and editors use as cautionary tales for what to never, ever do around them? Like to not hand them an unsolicited manuscript, follow them to public restrooms, or pitch them in the middle of a social event? Like, use common sense?

Okay, well. I never knew people would actually consider doing any of those things to lit bloggers. But I’ll tell you what, this is how I’m debuting my series of BEA recaps: rude and awkward but funny situations I found myself in at BEA.

First up was at the blogger booth. Firebrand set up a space for bloggers to sit in scheduled hour-long slots to meet readers or people who were interested. Think an author signing, but for bloggers. We had some materials to hand to curious people who passed by and trading cards to use as business cards, etc. Fun idea, huh?

Well, my slot was at 11am on Saturday. I didn’t get many visitors (way to feel like a reject, Steph!) when a middle-aged man stopped by and asked what bloggers did and how much we charged for our services. The two other people signing with me, Trish and Molly, were busy chatting with other visitors, so I explained that we do this for free as a hobby, etc…

He perked up. He pulled a (very cheap-looking) book from a suitcase he was carrying and began pitching this true crime novel to me, even after I’d told him I only do YA. I’m not good at telling industry people off in person, and my subtle attempts to get him to leave me alone failed to work, so I was stuck there. Half an hour the guy was there.

Out of an hour I had to be there. He took up half my time, and out of my peripheral vision I saw people come up and leave once they saw how engrossed he was in this one-sided conversation I couldn’t get out of. He handed me the book and said, “You gotta review it.”

“My review pile is way too big right now--”

“This will be a bestseller. Did you miss the part where a feature film is being made for July?”

Are movies even made that quickly? It sounded off to me.

“That’s great! But I really can’t--”

“Take it!”

“Uh…okay.” I took the book and put it with my stuff. “Thanks.”

“So you’ll review it?” He was looking at me so expectantly.


“Hey, Steph, I gotta show you something,” the event coordinator said. “One second,” she told the guy. We walked over to the computer and she said, “You looked like you needed some help there.”

“Oh, thank you. Yeah. No kidding. He’s been here for half an hour and he’s badgering me.” I was really annoyed, more so by the fact I hadn’t found the courage to defend myself.

We browsed Twitter for a couple of minutes and I said, “Okay, I’m going back. Thank you.”

The guy was talking to another coordinator when I went back to my seat, and the coordinator looked just as uncomfortable as I’m sure I did. I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and I said, “Look, I’m not going to be able to review this as my readership is mainly comprised of teen girls who aren’t your target audience.”

He looked so immersed in his conversation with the other coordinator that he just nodded, took the book, and went on talking. I almost said something to him, but the coordinator who saved me looked like she had it under control, so I just left.

Oh my GOD, was that awkward. It makes you wonder if people have no common sense at all.

Then! At 12:30pm I was moderating a YA consumer panel. We had four teen girls (five with me, but I wasn’t a panelist) talking about their reading habits and such. We got a ton of audience questions and when the panel finished, some audience members came up to talk to me. I got through the first two people okay and then as I was talking to the third, this guy came up to me.

Another guy, mind. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

He poked me. I politely motioned for him to wait a bit as I was in the middle of a conversation with another person. He tapped his foot, the classic image of an impatient prima donna, and it took my all not to roll my eyes. A couple of minutes went by, and I was still talking to the other person. Instead of waiting, he grabbed my shirt and turned me to face him and handed me a couple of children’s books.

“Read these, okay?”

“I’m sorry but--” As you can see, I was getting a little bolder. No Uhh…s this time.

“Read them, okay?”

He looked anxious to leave, so I figured if I said okay he’d go. “Sure!”

He grabbed my wrist and pulled the books from my hand. I was getting a bit creeped out, but since I wasn’t alone in the room, I said nothing. He pointed at the title and said, “If you type that into the Internet, you’ll see the website. You’ll read them, right?”

I pulled my hand back, gave him a wan smile and did like a thumbs up thing.

He left.

I apologized and continued my conversation with the other person--who looked about as irked as I was when the guy finally left--and when I was all done talking to the awesome people who stayed after the panel to chat, I threw the books in my bag and left for the book blogger panel.

Long story short: When I left New York on Monday, those two books remained in the hotel room. My bags were heavy enough as it is. Here’s to hoping the hotel housekeeper has a kid who’d be interested.

All I’m saying is: That’s not the way to pitch bloggers. Or anyone. I never thought I’d have this problem--I mean, I’m a book blogger. What published author would have the audacity to impose themselves on a person like that? It’s one thing to casually come up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m ___ and my book, ____, published by ____, might appeal to you.”

But…the above? Ick.

I guess all’s fair in marketing and BEA?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Years and years of wishes made over birthday candles are finally answered when Anna turns fifteen and Matt, her best friend, finally kisses her. The two carry out a secret romance, delaying telling Matt’s sister--and Anna’s best female friend--Frankie until the two siblings’ annual trip to California, where he can find the best way to tell her. But they never get to that point because a month later, an undetected defect in Matt’s heart leads to a car accident, claiming Matt’s life and any semblance of normalcy in Anna’s and Frankie’s.

Anna promised Matt she’d let him tell Frankie of their hidden relationship and with his passing, she can’t bring herself to confess to her best friend. This secret robs her of her right to mourn--she feels so guilty and protective of Frankie that she becomes the strong one in the friendship, saving them from the depths of depression while also dealing with her demons. And the family trip to California Frankie’s parents are planning a year later in order to bring some closure isn’t helping, especially when all Frankie wants to do is hook up with twenty boys. How can Anna really embark on that when she’s still in love with her best friend’s dead brother? At the same time, how would she explain a refusal to take part in it?

Anna’s love-soaked memories of Matt--of romantic things they did together or flashbacks dating even further back, Before The Kiss, when she was still falling in love with him--are all we have to go on the man itself and yet he’s such a force in this novel. I’m not sure what it takes to make a character of the past have believable influence over the present, to convince us he’s real over such limited glimpses of all he was. But Matt resuscitated in all the passages Anna’s conflicted about all things relating to him, and if nothing else, there’s something really pure in that quality.

Luckily, there’s no need to get on the “if nothing else” optimistic train because there’s so much else. The characters are there, not one of them flawless but every last one real. Even unblemished Matt (don’t speak ill of the dead, eh?) leaves some ambiguity he can’t answer for. Further: At its core, this is a story about love, but not always a love story, and incorporates all manifestations of said love--familial, platonic and romantic. It’s just so well rounded.

But! As much as I’d evidently love to praise this book seven ways way past Sunday, one thing wasn’t… cooked long enough for me. The single most compelling factor herein is Anna’s conflicted feelings about her loyalty to Matt and her attraction to this new summer boy, Sam. While I thought Sam’s character was for all intents and purposes all right, as a reader, after experiencing her emotional rollercoaster in light of every miniscule thing, I couldn’t feel her desire for him. What there was of it paled to her descriptions of how Sam made her feel…I don’t know.

Also, a bit minor, but I thought Frankie lost a lot of her characterization in the year following Matt’s death. We get to see a ton of Matt and Anna of the past and Frankie is lost in transition. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a crystal (sea glass?) clear picture of her grief painted left and right but…it just would’ve been nice to understand her in such an emotionally-investing novel.

With all this said, though, ya know what? I don’t care. Sam could be an allegory for all future guys in Anna’s life and how she’ll deal with the anxiety that comes with wanting to forget but also remember, and the frustration of not knowing just what was it she lost with Matt and if she’s betraying him. Anna’s exploration of this theme is worth every page.

The writing’s just beautiful and the way Sarah Ockler writes about grief, incorporating a very particular sentimentality to it, is subtle and genuine and inimitable. This lingers. I do recommend this novel, I do I do! B

Little, Brown
| 290 pages | June 1st, 2009 | Excerpt | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Win all of Erin Downing's books

I feel like I'm turning into contest central here, but alas, that's about how it goes when you're in the Finals Arena. -.-

You all saw Erin Downing's Pub Story yesterday. Now, it's time to sample the outcome of said story. Three lucky winners each get all three of her Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies books.

Dancing Queen
It's official. Olivia is a superfreak. Sure, she may have landed the hottest internship at an übercool TV music station. And yes, she's chilling with A-listers in London all summer. But when she meets her very first pop star, she gets caught in a revolving glass door and falls smack down on her bum -- all in one quick motion.

Luckily, Rocker Boy thinks Liv's quirks are adorable. He takes her clubbing at the hippest spots! Liv may be clumsy on solid ground, but on the dance floor she sparkles. The summer's just begun and she's already captured the spotlight -- and a celeb's heart, too. Now if only she was sure he's the right guy...

Prom Crashers
It was love at first sight for Emily and Ethan. But then Em lost his number and, with it, all the hope of finding a real boyfriend before the end of senior year. All she knows about Ethan is his first name, that he has a supercute smile, and that he's going to a prom this month. Which high school? That's anyone's guess....

Em enlists the help of her three best friends, who quickly score formal wear and hail a limo. Together, Emily, Max and Sid vow to find Ethan, to find a cure for senioritis, and most important, to find true love -- one hilarious prom night at a time.

Drive Me Crazy
Kate's tote is packed and she's ready for a road trip! She and her two best friends, Sierra and Alexis, are geared up for a week of fun and freedom on the road to their family lake houses in Love, Wisconsin. Best of all, when Kate reaches Love, she'll be reunited with Lucas, with whom she shared a steamy end-of-summer kiss last year. Kate can't wait to see Lucas again and pick things up exactly where they left off.

Then Kate gets some seriously bad news: Alexis's sarcastic, condescending, hot-but-he-knows-it cousin is crashing the girls' road trip. Adam bugs Kate in every possible way. Now Kate just wants to get the road trip over with so she can spend the summer in Lucas's arms. But the road to Love is full of surprises...

Who wants? Here's what you gotta do to win:

What's your favorite romantic comedy book is (by any author)? What's a teeny little explanation of why you like it?

Answer this in the comments section and your name will be added to the draw.

+1 each time you link to this contest anywhere
+1 if you link to Erin's Pub Story

Leave as many comments as you have entries, telling me what you did in each. (Answering the question + 1 extra = 2 comments; so on.) USA only.

You have a week, until June 10th.
Go go go!

Contest over. Winner to be announced.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pub Story: Erin Downing

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

About Erin: Erin Downing is a one-time book editor who now works at Nickelodeon. She spent a few months as a cookie inventor (but had to quit after she ate too many). Erin has lived in England, Sweden, and New York City and now resides in her native Minnesota. Visit her at

The Story

I’m Erin Downing, author and snacker, and this is my Pub Story.

To set things up, I should let you know that I am probably one of the few authors I know who can’t honestly say, “I have always wanted to be a writer.” But the fact is, I haven’t. I grew up loving to write essays for English class, and I’ve always loved reading and writing about books…but writing fiction? Getting inside my own head and putting it on paper? No, thanks.

In fact, I was never even a journaling person. I was just a reader and an English major and a wannabe actor (this last whim only lasted a very short time—the ultimate prize would have been a starring role in one of those very amusing tampon commercials).

Besides reading and English-majoring, the one thing I have always been good at is being honest and sharing my opinion. Quite honestly, I’m too honest and opinionated most of the time. But this honesty and a love of critique and reading made me realize I’d like to pursue a career as a book editor. Specifically, a children’s book editor. Even more specifically, I decided I’d like to edit very commercial fiction that a lot of people would like to read, which to me meant something like The Babysitter’s Club series.

So I went to my college guidance advisor in Minnesota and told her so.

I would like to become a children’s book editor. Can you help me?
HER (chuckling):
That is not a career. You mean you’d like to be a journalist?
ME: No. An editor—of books?
HER: Good luck with that. There is no such job.

Well, she was crazy, of course. There is such a job—it just meant I would probably need to move to New York and make almost no money, both of which I was more than happy to do. I was ready for the big city and glamour! So I sent resumes to every publisher I could think of, and somehow managed to schedule an exhausting round of interviews with approximately eight different publishers (some of whom were so stuffy that had I gotten a job there, I would be a much—uh, different—person today). I ended up extending my visit by two days to fit in one last-minute interview…at Scholastic.

I hustled straight from the interview to the airport to fly home, and while I was in the air headed back to Minnesota, I got a voicemail message from Scholastic offering me my dream job. I was hired by a fellow named David Levithan (ahem—heard of him?) who was, at the time, editing the last books in The Babysitter’s Club series! Can you believe it?

To skip through time a bit, I will just summarize the next few years by saying that I worked on some awesome books with amazing authors who remain my idols to this day. The things I loved most about my years as an editor were working with authors to bring their characters to life and helping them plot out sticky spots in their manuscripts. It was some time during these years that I subconsciously realized I wanted to create characters of my own, and began to understand how much I enjoy molding the structure of a story.

Some stuff happened (which I won’t bore you with), but I eventually quit my Scholastic career and moved to Stockholm, Sweden, with my husband for a year. Now, finally, we get into the writing piece of this Pub Story.

While I was living in Sweden, I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I started playing with some stories on paper, and spent a lot of time people-watching and daydreaming characters. One day, I went to see that dumb movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the one where she has amnesia? See, I don’t even remember what it was called, but I do remember that I came home from the movie and wrote the first scene of what would eventually be Dancing Queen, my first book. (For the record, the scene I wrote that day was eventually edited out and a new one took its place. That happens.)

I worked on the first few chapters and an outline of what the book would look like, with the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy line in mind. Why? Well, one of my fellow Scholastic editorial colleagues was responsible for that line at the time, and I knew she would be kind enough to look at my submission, but would also be painfully honest about whether my book totally sucked. I counted on her to tell me I should just give up, if that’s what she thought I should do. But she did not. In fact, she told me to keep playing, keep tinkering, keep writing, and gave me heaps of suggestions along the way. Unlike other stories like this that end badly, I did eventually get a contract for that book once it was written, and my first book was published by Simon Pulse approximately nine months later.

Side note: I do not have an agent, but I am very comfortable being pushy to get what I need/want and I love to negotiate. That’s another story.

Back to the story: While I was on maternity leave with my first daughter, before Dancing Queen was even in bookstores, I was brainstorming with my husband and good friend/author-extraordinaire Robin Wasserman (read Skinned!) for a new book hook. We hit on the concept for Prom Crashers, my second book. I wrote a proposal for my editor, she bought it, and I was given five months to write it so we could get it out in time for the next prom season. I did it!

At this point, my editor left Simon & Schuster, and I was assigned a new editor. Nothing good happened for about nine months. Many rejected proposals later, I was down in the dumps and worried I would never be published again. Then, out of the blue (without realizing how good her timing was, since I’d mentally given up), I got an email from Anica Rissi, who had just started as a new Senior Editor at Simon Pulse. It said (to paraphrase), “We miss you at Pulse, and I am going to be your editor moving forward, if that’s okay with you.” Okay? Okay!

I sent her a new proposal I’d been working on – for Drive Me Crazy, a book that will be out in June – and she loved it. Once again, tight deadline. And, get this—in a totally crazy twist of fate, the very same week I got a “yes” to a proposal I’d submitted for Scholastic’s Candy Apple line. Juicy Gossip had a deadline four weeks before Drive Me Crazy, and I suddenly had less than six months to write TWO books, and have a full-time job, and be a mom to not-yet-one-year-old twins and a toddler. I survived.

That was last summer. After the insane deadline frenzy, I took some time off to play with my kids and some ideas for *different* types of books that I’d been wanting to dig into. My lovely editor Anica and I spent some time talking about my writing career, and we had some very similar ideas about where I should go. Throughout last fall and into early this spring, I worked on a proposal for a new teen book called Kiss It. It’s very different from my earlier work, and I’m in the middle of writing it now. Assuming I finish writing it, Simon Pulse will publish it in Summer 2010, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Until then, I’m really enjoying the ride.

Thanks for reading my Pub Story, and my books!

Thanks, Erin!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Contest: Catching Fire

Yeah yeah, I am totally serious. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I'm paying (a lot) for my internet usage, so I can't add cover and description, but I'm sure you're all tired of hearing that. :)

Comment to win. This is US only because this trip to the US has made me POOR. +1 for each time you link straight here. Leave as many comments as you have entries. (So if you enter and do one +1, you leave two comments; one entry and 2 +1s = 3 comments, etc.)

Not sure when the deadline is (we'll see what the response is), so hurry!

Contest over. Winner announced here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm in NYC!

Hi all, have to make this quick cos my hotel charges for internet. I'm in NYC and I met a ton of people today, including Michelle Zink, Alea, Lenore, Amy (My Friend Amy), Melissa Walker, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Korianne, Marie, Steph Su, Sharon, and many many others I'm not gonna say right now cos of time. But anyway, it's been fab. If anyone wants to meet at BEA tomorrow, I'll be at the YA Editors' Buzz. K? See you then!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Contest: Lisa Schroeder's Books

You saw Lisa Schroeder's Pub Story.
Now it's time to win Lisa's books.

From Lisa herself:

Man, Elizabeth Scott is a tough act to follow, giving away a whole stack of books. I only have two books out, but I’m happy to give away one of each to two lucky people.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me
Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.
Girl gets boy back...

...sort of.

Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.

Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.

Far From You
Lost and alone...down the rabbit hole

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn't quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can, by writing her music, losing herself in the love of her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half-sister, she'll face issues she's been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful.

Perhaps she's not so alone after all...

Sound good? You have until June 3rd to enter. Leave a comment indicating which one you'd like, or, if you have no preference, let us know that.

If you link directly to this contest post
+1 If you link to Lisa's Pub Story

Please leave as many comments as you have entries (for instance, one entry = 1 comment, 1 entry + 1 extra entry = 2 comments, so on). Makes my life easier. ;)

Contest closed. Winners announced here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pub Story: Lisa Schroeder

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

* Noteworthy: Lisa gave a bit of insight on the production of novels in verse: snagging an agent, selling, word count, editing, etc. I've never found this sort of info easily, which is why I think this is a particularly informative Pub Story.

About Lisa: Lisa is the author of two young adult novels, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and FAR FROM YOU, both published by Simon Pulse. She works as a Compensation Analyst by day at a local hospital and squeezes writing in during the early morning hours and on the weekends. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two sons. In 2010, she’s excited to have two new novels coming out -- a mid-grade novel called IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES and another YA novel-in-verse, CHASING BROOKLYN. Visit her online at

The Story
I had been writing for a long time. A. Freaking. Long. Time. Like years and years. And all around me people were getting big deals with their exciting books for kids and teens and skipping through the field of publishing daisies, and holy crap did I want to SKIP through those daisies too!

Although I had published a picture book with a small house, my dream was to publish a novel. I’d written three mid-grade novels that didn’t go anywhere. The third one I’d come close to getting an agent a couple of times, but I still wasn’t skipping. So, in 2006 I read about an on-line YA class an author was offering and I signed up. 2005/2006 was when the young adult world really started to take off. YA novels were selling like crazy. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to go where it was hot, it just made sense to learn more about writing for this age group in case I ever had a story idea that would fit.

I read a LOT of YA during that time and discovered Laurie Halse Anderson, Sonya Sones, Sarah Mlynowski, Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Dessen, and many others. So, I started writing a YA novel, and while in the middle of that story, I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died and he loved her so much, he couldn’t leave her. I got up the next morning and started writing about Ava and Jackson – the story that eventually became I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

The weird thing was that the story came out in a different format from anything I’d ever written. I wrote ten pages before I sat back and thought, Lisa, what in the ^&*% are you doing? As if it isn’t hard enough to get a book published, now I was writing in this sparse, poetic style that would probably make it even harder.

Still, I liked what I had, so I kept going. The story poured out of me like nothing else I’d ever written. I found it fun and challenging at the same time to tell the story in this unique way. Still, I worried that calling it “verse” when I wasn’t nearly as poetic as other verse authors would mean I would be stuck on the boring old sidewalk forever while others around me continued to skip through those daisies.

I finished the book and had a few people give me critiques, including Sonya Sones, who was incredibly helpful in getting my book polished and ready to submit. Finally, in August of 2006, I was ready to start querying agents. I put the word count in the letter, and at that time, the book came in at a whopping 13,600 words. Verse novels are just shorter. (It did grow by about 2,000 words, though, during the revision process with my editor). One agent told me (after reading only the query letter) – this is too short to be a novel, it’s probably more of a novella. Another agent told me – I wouldn’t know a good verse novel from a bad one, so I’m definitely not the agent for you. It wasn’t long before I was frustrated and feeling like it would be back to the Idea Store again to find a new idea and start over on a new project.

Finally, I had an agent request to read the manuscript, because she had a client who had been talking about writing a novel-in-verse, and she was “curious.” This, by the way, proves my point that so much of what happens in publishing is luck, i.e. right place, right time. A couple of weeks later, she e-mailed me and said she loved the book and thought the verse created a unique atmosphere that she didn’t think I would have achieved had I written in traditional prose.

We had to submit to quite a few editors before we found one who fell in love with it. I mean, let’s face it. I had this paranormal story going on combined with what is traditionally a very literary style. I think most editors read it and just weren’t sure what to do with it. Is it literary? Is it commercial? What IS it?

Anyway, Simon Pulse took me on and although I’m still very much a struggling author with a day job trying to break out, I’ve finally gotten to skip through the field of publishing daisies. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME came out in January, 2008 and is in its seventh printing. Simon Pulse bought my second novel in verse, called FAR FROM YOU, out now, which is another book about love and loss, healing and hope. I just finished revisions on my third one, coming out in 2010, called CHASING BROOKLYN, another ghost story, this time with two ghosts, one who is tormenting Brooklyn and another who is trying to protect her.

Steph asked – how is writing, submitting, and revising a verse novel different from a traditional novel?

I think some houses view verse novels as risky. Editors wonder if teens will open up the book and be turned off by the format. Certainly Ellen Hopkins, a NYT best-selling author, has proven teens will read verse. On the other hand, not everyone is going to like it. I know that. I get that. And it’s okay! Just like not everyone likes fantasy, not everyone likes historical fiction, etc. etc. Ultimately, just like any book, I think it comes down to telling a good story. That has to be the number one goal each and every time. The format in which I choose to tell the story isn’t as important as telling a good story.

As far as revising a verse novel, it’s really tricky because with my editor’s help, I go in knowing what needs work to make the story better and to make the characters more developed. But at the same time, I’m constantly asking myself, is it poetic enough? There are times when lots of dialogue is needed, and let’s face it, realistic dialogue is not going to be poetic. So I do the best I can, and hope people know it’s a fine line, and hope they might try to appreciate the challenges writing a novel-in-verse comes with.


Thanks, Lisa!